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Ohio Republican lawmakers propose constitutional amendment preventing non-citizens from voting in local elections

If the joint resolution is adopted by three-fifths of both the House and Senate, the proposed amendment would appear on the ballot in November.
Credit: George Payamgis, 3News

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Republicans in the Ohio General Assembly have introduced a joint resolution calling for a constitutional amendment preventing local governments from allowing non-U.S. citizens to vote in local elections.

If the joint resolution is adopted by three-fifths of both the House and Senate, the proposed amendment would appear on the ballot in this November's general election. If approved by voters, the amendment would then take effect immediately. 

The joint resolution, sponsored by Reps. Bill Seitz and Jay Edwards in the Ohio House and Sen. Lou Blessing in the Ohio Senate, proposes to amend the Ohio Constitution to prohibit local governments from allowing persons to vote in local elections if they are not qualified to vote in state elections. This would include non-U.S. citizens or persons under 18.

The Ohio Constitution currently specifies that: "Every citizen of the United States, of the age of eighteen years, who has been a resident of the state, county, township, or ward, such time as may be provided by law, and has been registered to vote for thirty days, has the qualifications of an elector, and is entitled to vote at all elections."

“This is a smart preventative measure that will provide the certainty needed to ensure this right is protected for Ohioans. Make no mistake, efforts to give away voting rights to non-citizens have already been attempted here in Ohio," said Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose in a statement.

LaRose specifically points to controversy surrounding the village of Yellow Springs in 2020. In a charter amendment that was passed in March of that year, Yellow Springs residents who were non-U.S. citizens were granted the right to vote in its local elections.

In July 2020, LaRose ordered the Greene County Board of Elections to reject non-citizen voter registrations from Yellow Springs and put measures in place ensuring only citizens are allowed to vote 

“Just when you thought 2020 couldn’t get any weirder, the village of Yellow Springs forces me as Ohio’s chief elections officer to restate the obvious - only US citizens may vote,” LaRose said at the time of his order to Greene County. “Incredibly, I’m being put in a position where I need to remind a village here in Ohio that a vote is a sacred right which many have fought and bled to protect – but only a right that is earned by birth or the oath of citizenship."  

In its evaluation of the joint resolution, the nonpartisan Ohio Legislative Service Commission notes that, "it appears that only one Ohio municipality allows otherwise-ineligible persons to vote in local elections. In 2020, the Village of Yellow Springs approved a charter amendment to allow non-U.S. citizens to vote in village elections. But, it seems that no noncitizen has registered to vote in the village. If such a person did register, that action likely would trigger a lawsuit. LSC cannot predict how a reviewing court would rule in such a case."

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